Women's Basketball Goes Coast-To-Coast This Week

Dec. 3, 2002

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The Facts
The USC women's basketball team (3-2) is going coast-to-coast this week as it travels to Pepperdine (4-2) on Wednesday, Dec. 4, then cross country to face defending NCAA champion Connecticut (5-0) on Sunday, Dec. 8. The Women of Troy and Waves will tip off at 8 p.m. at Pepperdine's Firestone Fieldhouse. You can listen and follow the game live at www.usctrojans.com. On Sunday, USC and fifth-ranked UConn will tipoff at 2 p.m. EST at the Hartford (Conn.) Civic Center (the Huskies play seven games in Hartford, eight in Storrs during the season). Listen live at www.UConnHuskies.com. The Women of Troy are coming off a 69-57 loss to 10th-ranked Notre Dame on Nov. 29.

All USC home games can be heard live via the internet at www.usctrojans.com. To find the USC audio broadcast go to the 'Multimedia' link at the top of the homepage. You can also follow the game with Live Stats by going to the women's basketball schedule page.

USC, which advanced to the second round of the Postseason Women's NIT in 2002, looks to carry its late-season momentum into 2003. Under sixth-year head coach Chris Gobrecht, the Women of Troy return four starters and seven total letterwinners from last year's squad which posted a 16-14 overall record and 11-7 mark in the Pac-10 to finish tied for fourth place. This season, USC will look to All-American candidates and returning All-Pac-10 first team selections Ebony Hoffman and Aisha Hollans, in addition to 2002 Pac-10 All-Freshman team selection Rachel Woodward to make the difference.

Facing NCAA Champions Is Not New
It's no secret that head coach Chris Gobrecht likes to schedule tough... and it doesn't get any tougher than facing defending national champions. After Sunday's game, USC will have faced three of the last four NCAA Champions, including Tennessee and Notre Dame. The Women of Troy had their fourth-consecutive meeting with Notre Dame last Friday and will host Tennessee for the second straight year on Dec. 14.

USC In the Polls
Since its upset victory over 19th-ranked Colorado State (which dropped to 24th in the AP poll) to start the season, USC has been receiving votes in both polls. This week, the Trojans are 34th on the AP poll with 9 votes and 30th on the USA Today/ESPN poll with 50 votes.

Off To A Running Start
The Trojans spent no time at all warming up this season. In just two short weeks, USC played five games, faced three ranked opponents (No. 29 Colorado State, No. 4 Kansas State, No. 10 Notre Dame), took two road trips and played three home games all before most teams even played their second game of the year. The Trojans add to that by heading cross-country this week to face No. 5 UConn, their fourth ranked opponent of the season.

Keep Your Eye On The Ball
There is one category that the Trojans have definitely dominated this season - turnovers! Despite averaging 21.4 turnovers in the first five games, the Women of Troy have used it to their advantage by forcing opponents to turn the ball over 28.6 times per outing. With a fast-paced pressure defense, USC has also managed to collect 11.0 steals per game.

Gobrecht One Win Away From 400th
Head coach Chris Gobrecht is just one win shy of collecting her 400th career victory. Currently in her 24th season as a head coach, Gobrecht boasts a 399-283 (.585) career record. With a win, she will be the third active Pac-10 coach to reach the 400-victory plateau behind Arizona's Joan Bonvicini and Stanford's Tara VanDerveer.

Connecticut Connections
UConn guard Diana Taurasi and USC junior Ebony Hoffman know each other well. Both natives of Los Angeles, the two were ranked as the top two prep recruits of 2000 (Taurasi was ranked No. 1, Hoffman No. 2). The two were also teammates on the 2000 U.S. Junior National Team. *** UConn freshman Willnett Crocket hails from Narbonne High. She was two years behind Ebony Hoffman at Narbonne and three years behind Jessica Cheeks.

The Last Time...
Before beating No. 19 Colorado State in the first week of the season, the last time the Women of Troy beat a ranked opponent was on Jan. 19, 2002 when they defeated No. 23 Arizona State.

Game Recap: #10 Notre Dame def. USC, 69-57
Despite holding a 37-34 lead at the half, USC fell to 10th-ranked Notre Dame, 69-57, on Nov. 29. Rachel Woodward scored a career-high 22 points to lead the Trojans. She was backed by Ebony Hoffman and Jessica Cheeks, who added 10 points apiece. The Trojans took an 11-2 lead 2:47 into the game after Woodward made her first four shots to score nine points, and Notre Dame committed four turnovers in the first 2:26. But the Irish responded with a 13-2 run to move ahead 15-13. The teams exchanged the lead six times in the first half. After holding the lead at the half thanks to a 42.9 percent shooting effort from three-point range, USC collapsed in the second half. The Trojans made only one basket in the first 7:45 of the second half, as Notre Dame took a 46-41 lead with 12:44 to play. USC cut the lead to 46-45, but the Irish pulled ahead to 61-51 with 4:55 to play on Ratay's 3-point basket. The Trojans shot 28 percent from the floor in the second half.

USC In the Preseason WNIT
The Trojans advanced to the semifinals of the Preseason Women's NIT to start 2002 after twice appearing in the postseason tournament (2000, 2002). As the fourth Pac-10 team to compete in the preseason event since its inception in 1994, the Trojans are the first to ever advance past the second round. Pac-10 teams are now 5-4 all-time in the preseason tourney.

2003 Player News N' Notes
* Rachel Woodward scored a career high 22 points against Notre Dame (Nov. 29).
* Ebony Hoffman posted a career high seven steals in win over New Mexico (Nov. 23).
* Ebony Hoffman collected a career-high 18 rebounds in a double-double effort against Northern Arizona (Nov. 15).

A College Basketball Classic
The USC-Tennessee game on Saturday, Dec. 14, will be an event to remember. In addition to featuring two legendary programs at a legendary arena (Great Western Forum), the afternoon will include a reunion of USC's 1983 and 1984 NCAA Championship teams. The start time for the game has been set for 1:30 p.m. and it will be televised nationally by Fox Sports Net. Between them, USC and Tennessee have won eight national championships - USC owns two (1983, 1984) and Tennessee claims six (1987, 1989, 1991, 1996, 1997, 1998).

Hoffman Named Candidate For Naismith Award
Ebony Hoffman was named to the list of women's preseason candidates for the 2003 Naismith College Basketball Player of the Year Award. The Naismith Awards program, now in its 35th year, honors the outstanding college basketball players in the United States. The candidates were selected by a vote of the Board of Selectors comprised of leading basketball coaches, journalists and basketball analysts.

USC Boasts Nation's Second-Toughest Schedule
The Women of Troy have a definite challenge ahead of them this season - actually the No. 2 toughest challenge, according to the WBCA and its preseason nonconference strength of schedule rating. The Trojans are ranked No. 17 in overall strength of schedule. The 2003 schedule features Notre Dame (Nov. 29) at the Sports Arena and Tennessee (Dec. 14), who boasts the No. 1-rated toughest schedule, at the Forum, road games against New Mexico (Nov. 23), Pepperdine (Dec. 4), SMU (Dec. 18), Colorado (Dec. 21) and UC Santa Barbara (Jan. 9), and a Dec. 8 match-up at defending national champion Connecticut in Hartford, Conn.

Women Of Troy Earn Preseason Ranking
Athlon Sports magazine ranked the 2003 USC women's basketball team No. 24 nationally in a Preseason Top 25 Poll featured in its College Basketball edition on Sept. 16. USC is one of three Pac-10 teams represented in the poll. Stanford comes in at No. 7, while Oregon is No. 22. Duke received the No. 1 ranking. The Trojans will face seven ranked opponents this season, including Stanford, Oregon, No. 2 Tennessee (Dec. 14), No. 5 Notre Dame (Nov. 29), No. 8 Connecticut (Dec. 8) and No. 21 New Mexico (Nov. 23), with the possibility of playing No. 16 Colorado State (Nov. 17) in the second round of the Preseason Women's National Invitation Tournament. USC received votes in the AP and USA Today/ESPN polls.

Hoffman Leads USA World Championship Team To Gold Medal
Finishing with a perfect 4-0 record, the 2002 USA Basketball World Championship For Young Women Qualifying Team claimed the gold medal with an 81-50 victory over host Brazil (4-1) on July 21 thanks to an 18-point, 11-rebound effort from junior Ebony Hoffman. Averaging a tournament leading 102.8 points an outing, the United States had five players finish with scoring averages in double digits, three of whom finished among the top 10 in the tournament in scoring. Leading the charge was Hoffman, who averaged a tournament fourth-best 13.3 points.

Trojans Welcome New Assistant Coach
Steve Brooks, a former prep basketball coach with more than 20 years of coaching experience, was named an assistant coach for the USC women's basketball team by head coach Chris Gobrecht in July. Brooks will be in charge of overseeing the individual development of the USC players, as well as on-campus recruiting, conditioning and scouting. He replaces Colleen Matsuhara, who became head women's coach at West Los Angeles Community College.

Returning Honorees
Forward Ebony Hoffman and guard Aisha Hollans were both named to the All-Pac-10 first team in 2002 - a first for the two standout players and the first, first-team selections for the Women of Troy since the 1999 season (also the first time USC has had two named to the first team since the 1994 season). Rachel Woodward also received her share of honors by being named to the conference All-Freshman team. Woodward finished the season third on the team in scoring (11.3 ppg), assists (1.8 apg) and blocked shots (0.6 bpg), and fourth in rebounding (4.9 rpg).

Rometra Craig To Join Team Dec. 19
A key to USC's success this season is the addition of Rometra Craig (Portola Valley, Calif.) - a 2002 junior transfer from Duke who will be eligible on Dec. 19 (one full year after her transfer date). A unanimous prep All-American at Archbishop Mitty High in San Jose, Calif., Craig was a member of Duke's heralded recruiting class of 2002. Before transferring, the junior averaged 17.9 minutes, 6.9 points and 2.1 rebounds per game with the Blue Devils. Craig will have one-and-a-half years of remaining eligibility at USC.

Two New Additions
There are two new additions to this year's Women of Troy roster - junior college transfer Tiffany Hicks and freshman Meghan Gnekow. Hicks is an experienced point guard who helped lead Iowa Western Community College to its first-ever district championship in 2002, while Gnekow will likely play at the 2/3 guard position and is expected to provide the team with necessary three-point shooting at those positions. She prepped at Lincoln (Neb.) High.

Even Newer Additions
At the start of the season, the Women of Troy added two freshmen walk-ons to the 2002-03 roster. An academic sophomore, Alessandra Albrizzio is a 5-9 guard who hails from Holy Names High in El Cerrito, Calif. Albrizzio will wear No. 20. The newest addition is freshman forward Reva Evero who prepped at Alta Loma High in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. Evero will wear No. 4.

USC Signs Six To Letters Of Intent
USC signed six players to letters of intent - including four prep All-American selections - for the 2004 season, head coach Chris Gobrecht announced on Nov. 18. Jamie Funn of Los Angeles, Markisha Lea of Riverside, Eshaya Murphy of Van Nuys, Chloe Kerr of Bollingbrook, Ill., Allison Jaskowiak of Chesterfield, Mo., and Katie Henderson of Redmond, Wash., make up what has already been ranked as the nation's No. 9 recruiting class of 2003 in Blue Star Report. 'This is the kind of recruiting class that establishes a foundation for the future,' said Gobrecht, who is in her sixth season at USC. 'These student-athletes are not only excellent basketball players, but also strong students and outstanding people. They are the type of recruits you can build your program on.'

Head Coach Chris Gobrecht
Chris Gobrecht enters her sixth season at the helm of the USC women's basketball program. Replacing former head coach Fred Williams on May 8, 1997, Gobrecht returned to her alma mater to help guide the Women of Troy back to national prominence. Throughout 24 years of head coaching experience, Gobrecht has amassed a 399-283 (.586) career record with her programs at Cal State Fullerton (six years), Washington (11), Florida State (one) and USC. During her 11-year tenure at Washington, she was twice named Pac-10 Coach of the Year (1987 and 1988). Gobrecht remains the second-winningest coach in conference history with a 171-99 (.633) mark and she ranks among the top 50 active Division I coaches with 399 career victories.

Opponent Notes

Pepperdine -- Pepperdine has enjoyed five straight home games to start the 2002-03 season, but has only managed to come away with a 2-2 record. The Waves fell to Arizona and Xavier, but defeated St. John's and Wisconsin to win their own Thanksgiving Classic last week. The team returned three starters and 10 letterwinners from last year's squad which posted a 23-8 overall record, 11-3 mark in the West Coast Conference (first place) and advanced to the first round of the NCAAs. Under 11th year head coach Mark Trakh, the Waves are currently led by returning junior guard Shandrika Lee who is averaging 17.3 points per game. Oregon State transfer Nicole Funn, in her first active year with the Waves, leads the team with 5.0 rebounds per game.

USC-Pepperdine Series Record -- The Women of Troy have never lost a game to Pepperdine (14-0). The series began in 1978 with a narrow victory in Malibu, 73-71, and USC has since won all 14 match-ups. The last time the two teams faced each other was in an early season match at the Sports Arena on Dec. 15, 2001. USC defeated the Waves, 78-60.

Pepperdine Probable Starters
No. Name Pos. Ht. ppg rpg apg spg

31 Nicole Funn F 6-0 10.8 5.0 2.5 1.0
21 Keani Christianson F 6-1 5.8 4.8 1.0 1.0
23 Anna Lembke C 6-3 7.5 4.5 0.5 0.5
30 Shandrika Lee G 5-6 17.3 1.5 2.0 1.3
25 Damaris Hinojosa G 5-10 8.3 2.3 1.2 1.0

#5 Connecticut -- UConn captured their third national championship last season with a perfect 39-0 overall record. The Huskies also captured the Big East regular season and tournament crown with a 16-0 mark. Five of the players on the 2002 squad earned All-America honors. This year UConn returned only one starter (Diana Taurasi) and seven letterwinners from last season. Under 18th-year head coach Geno Auriemma, the Huskies have started where they left off last season. UConn is 5-0 heading into this week after winning the Hawaiian Airlines Classic last week by defeating Hawaii, Oklahoma and Denver. Taurasi currently leads the team with 18.8 points and 6.2 rebounds per game.

USC-UConn Series Record -- Sunday's game will be the first ever meeting between USC and Connecticut.

Connecticut Probable Starters
No. Name Pos. Ht. ppg rpg apg spg

3 Diana Taurasi G 6-0 18.8 6.2 5.8 0.6
21 Nicole Wolff G 5-11 7.4 3.8 2.4 0.6
22 Ashley Battle F 6-0 9.8 6.0 1.0 2.0
31 Jessica Moore C 6-3 9.6 7.0 1.2 1.0
43 Ann Strother G 6-2 10.0 5.6 4.0 0.6

Player Profiles

#3 Rometra Craig (Guard * Junior TR)
Rometra Craig will begin her first season with the Women of Troy on Dec. 19, 2002... Transferred from Duke midway through the 2001-02 season and must sit-out one complete year to become eligible... Becomes eligible to join the team on Dec. 19... A talented guard who brings additional speed and aggressiveness to USC's backcourt... An All-American caliber player.

#4 Reva Evero (Forward * Freshman)
Alessandra Albrizzio enters her first season with the Women of Troy as a walk-on.
This Season:
Added to the roster on Nov. 22... vs. New Mexico (11/23): DNP... vs. Notre Dame (11/29): DNP...

#5 Meghan Gnekow (Guard * Freshman)
Meghan Gnekow enters her first season at USC after starring at Santa Ynez (Calif.) County Union High... A guard with the potential of playing at the 2 or 3 spots... Expected to help the team because of her perimeter shooting... An athletic player who can handle the ball and make things happen.
This Season:
vs. NAU (11/15): 4 points (1-5), 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal... vs. CSU (11/15): 4 points (2-6), 4 rebounds... vs. KSU (11/20): 12 points (5-12), 4 rebounds, 2 steals... vs. New Mexico (11/23): 5 points (1-6), 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 7 steals... vs. Notre Dame (11/29): 2 rebounds, 1 steal...

#10 Jessica Cheeks (Guard * Junior)
Jessica Cheeks begins her third season with the Women of Troy... Was moved to the point guard position as a freshman, but may return to a more natural 2/3 position as a junior... Is a great asset to the team because of her size and agility in the backcourt... An all-around athlete with great instincts for the game... A returning starter.
This Season:
vs. NAU (11/15): started (at two guard), 13 points (6-13), 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals... vs. CSU (11/15): started, 11 points (5-11), 7 rebounds, 7 assists... vs. KSU (11/20): started, 7 points (1-9), 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 6 steals... vs. New Mexico (11/23): started, 15 points (7-10), 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals... vs. Notre Dame (11/29): started, 10 points (4-8), 2 rebounds, 3 assists...

#20 Alessandra Albrizzio (Guard * RS Freshman)
Alessandra Albrizzio enters her first season with the Women of Troy as a walk-on.
This Season:
vs. NAU (11/15): DNP... vs. CSU (11/15): DNP... vs. KSU (11/20): DNP... vs. New Mexico (11/23): DNP... vs. Notre Dame (11/29): DNP...

#21 Erin Young (Forward * Senior)
Erin Young enters her senior year with the Women of Troy at forward... After joining the team as a freshman walk-on guard, she earned a scholarship for her final three seasons... Her shooting abilities are crucial to the team... Looks to become much more explosive after quiet sophomore and junior campaigns.
This Season:
vs. NAU (11/15): started (only 2nd career start), 4 points (1-4), tied career high with 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block (first of career)... vs. CSU (11/15): started, 6 points (1-6), 5 rebounds, 2 assists... vs. KSU (11/20): started, 6 points (3-7), 2 rebounds... vs. New Mexico (11/23): started, 5 points (1-6), 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 7 steals... vs. New Mexico (11/23): started, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 steal... vs. Notre Dame (11/29): started, 1 rebound...

#23 Aisha Hollans (Guard * Junior)
Aisha Hollans begins her third season with the Women of Troy... One of the most gifted guards in the conference and a crucial player to have on the court at all times... Named to the 2002 All-Pac-10 First Team... A 2003 ALL-AMERICAN candidate... A returning starter on the perimeter.
This Season:
vs. NAU (11/15): DNP (academic suspension)... vs. CSU (11/15): 8 points (4-16), 4 rebounds, 1 assist... vs. KSU (11/20): 11 points (4-17), 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal... vs. New Mexico (11/23): 6 points (3-9), 3 rebounds, 1 assist... vs. Notre Dame (11/29): 9 points (3-9), 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal...

#24 Tiffany Hicks (Guard * Junior TR)
A transfer from Iowa Western Community College, Tiffany Hicks begins her first season at USC... She has two years of eligibility available with the Women of Troy... A classic point guard who will be relied upon heavily this season... A very responsible player who will defend and get the ball to all the right people.
This Season:
vs. NAU (11/15): started, 9 points (4-10), 2 rebounds3 assists.. vs. CSU (11/15): started, 3 points (1-3), 5 assists, 3 steals... vs. KSU (11/20): started, 2 points (1-4), 3 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals... vs. New Mexico (11/23): started, 4 rebounds, 2 assists... vs. Notre Dame (11/29): 2 rebounds, 8 assists...

#32 Ebony Hoffman (Forward * Junior)
Ebony Hoffman enters her third season with the Women of Troy... One of the most dominating post players in the conference who had outstanding freshman and sophomore campaigns... Named to the 2002 All-Pac-10 First Team... Competed with the 2002 USA Basketball World Championship For Young Women Qualifying Team this summer... A 2003 ALL-AMERICAN candidate... A returning starter in the post.
This Season:
vs. NAU (11/15): started, double-double with 14 points (5-11) and career-high 18 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 blocks, 2 steals... vs. CSU (11/15): started, 5 points (1-5), 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals... vs. KSU (11/20): started, 10 points (4-10), 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals... vs. New Mexico (11/23): started, 18 points (6-11), 3 rebounds, 3 assists, career-high 7 steals... vs. Notre Dame (11/29): started, 10 points (4-11), 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, 1 block...

#33 Rachel Woodward (Forward * Sophomore)
Rachel Woodward enters her second season with the Women of Troy... A talented passer who runs the floor well... She can catch, pass and finish on the move... Works well in transition and possesses strong rebounding skills... Brings great size to the forward position... Named to the 2002 Pac-10 All-Freshman Team... A returning starter.
This Season:
vs. NAU (11/15): started, 15 points (5-15), 4 rebounds, 3 assists2 steals... vs. CSU (11/15): started, 20 points (9-13) including game-winning three-pointer, 8 rebounds, 1 block... vs. KSU (11/20): started, 13 points (4-9), 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block, 2 steals... vs. New Mexico (11/23): started, 11 points (3-11), 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal... vs. Notre Dame (11/29): started, career high 22 points (10-19), 2 assists, 1 steal...

#44 Kim Gipson (Center * Sophomore)
Kim Gipson begins her second season with the Women of Troy... A terrific, big-time physical player who has continued to excel as her skills and understanding of the game have improved... An exceptional, bright athlete whose natural skills will bring her much success.
This Season:
vs. NAU (11/15): 4 points (2-2), 2 rebounds, 1 assist... vs. CSU (11/15): 2 points (1-3), 3 rebounds... vs. KSU (11/20): 3 rebounds, 2 assists... vs. New Mexico (11/23): 1 rebound, 1 assist... vs. Notre Dame (11/29): 6 points (3-4), 1 rebound, 1 steal...

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